19th-century pop star: Longfellow's 200th birthday

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PORTLAND, Me. -- Remembrances of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who would have turned 200 on Tuesday, are hard to escape in his native Portland, the place he described in ”My Lost Youth” as ”the beautiful town that is seated by the sea.”

In the heart of the downtown sits Wadsworth-Longfellow House, the three-story brick building where the poet lived as a youth. It’s a few blocks east of Longfellow Square and even closer to Longfellow Books. Some of the city’s elementary school pupils attend Longfellow School. Older folks can, in season, order a locally brewed Longfellow Winter Ale in a nearby bar or restaurant.

Longfellow, one of the most beloved literary figures in 19th-century America, has left his mark in the city where he was born on Feb. 27, 1807. Because of that connection, the Maine Historical Society is hosting a 200th birthday celebration Tuesday that kicks off a year of bicentennial activities.

Similar events, including poetry readings, lectures and exhibits, are also being held in Brunswick, where Longfellow attended Bowdoin College in the same graduating class as Nathaniel Hawthorne, and in Cambridge, Mass., where he spent most of his life and taught foreign languages at Harvard University.

Known for such familiar poems as ”Evangeline,” ”The Children’s Hour,” ”The Song of Hiawatha” and ”Paul Revere’s Ride,” Longfellow achieved fame during his lifetime comparable to that of today’s leading pop culture figures.

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